Well, given that I managed to be out of the house and away from the news when most of the big stories of the last few days have been breaking, I guess it will come as no surprise to learn tha I’m going to be out of the country and away from the internet for the next week or so, thus meaning I get to miss entirely the next few stages of the leadership contest.
I’m pretty sure there will be a contest, though - the fact that Charles Kennedy’s first statement to the media today was that he thinks there should be one is a good sign, plus the fact that the ‘let’s have a coronation for Ming’ doesn’t seem to be getting any traction amongst the Lib Dem bloggers ought to be a warning to those that are pushing for it that the membership won’t stand for it. As Peter Black puts it:
The Liberal Democrats belongs to its members. It is the members now who must decide how we will go forward and in which direction. They must be able to choose the new leader and they must be given the opportunity to openly debate the future of the party. There has to be an election, it is the only way in which we can start the healing process.
Personally, I’m also not convinced that Menzies Campbell is the best choice for party leader either and even if he proves to be, we deserve to hear how he plans to lead the party, what direction he sees us taking, and how he can continue to improve the party’s current position in ways that others can’t. The idea that he and the supposed air of gravitas that hangs around him would improve the party’s image and provide a contrast to the youth of David Cameron is, at best, a purely superficial argument in his favour. Similar arguments were advanced in favour of Michael Howard in 2003, and Americans no doubt recall the same points being made in favour of Bob Dole in 1996 and John Kerry in 2004. All the gravitas in the world can’t help you if the people don’t actually care about what you’re saying.
Finally, it needs to be a proper election contest, not just Campbell against some ego-boosting no-hoper (Campbell vs Hemming, for instance, whilst technically being an election, would make John Smith’s victory over Bryan Gould look like a close-run thing) with the candidates laying out their vision for the future of the party and seeking a mandate for that vision. We’re the party that boasts of its commitment to democracy, and we shouldn’t be afraid of a debate.